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CECS Leadership

Headshot of Ozlem Kilic.

Ozlem Kilic – Dean

“The future is arriving fast at UT with the launch of CECS and its dynamic team, reimagining higher education for the next generation and beyond. Our students will be equipped with skills and knowledge required to adapt to rapidly evolving industries, work effectively in multidisciplinary teams, and address real world challenges through our state of the art pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning.”

Read Ozlem Kilic’s Full Bio:

Ozlem Kilic is the Interim Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of the new College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies (CECS).

Prior to her role in the provost’s office, Kilic served as the Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs in the Tickle College of Engineering, overseeing a variety of programs, including undergraduate and graduate curricula, Engineering Fundamentals, scholarship and fellowship programs, and the college offices responsible for study abroad, advising, student success, outreach, recruiting, retention, and workforce development. She also co-supervised the Heath Integrated Business and Engineering program in partnership with the Haslam College of Business. She has led multiple initiatives designed to enhance student recruitment and retention, such as the establishment of Student Success and Women in Engineering offices in engineering.

She was also instrumental in the launch of the intercollegiate data science minor — a collaboration among the Tickle College of Engineering; College of Arts and Sciences; Haslam College of Business; College of Communication and Information; Herbert College of Agriculture; College of Education, Health and Human Sciences; College of Architecture and Design; College of Nursing; and the College of Social Work — and serves as its executive director. It is this work that led to the discussions on how to improve intercollegiate education on campus ultimately leading to the launch of CECS.

Prior to coming to UT, Kilic was a professor and served as the associate dean of engineering at the Catholic University of America. She has also worked as an electronics engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory where she managed Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Programs, and as a program manager at Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications.

Email Ozlem Kilic

Headshot of Alex Bentley.

Alex Bentley – Interim Associate Dean

“The landscape of knowledge, and the education we need to prepare for it, will change more in the next five years than it did in the last fifty. CECS students will be prepared for the acceleration of contemporary career skills through the most adaptive, forward-looking interdisciplinary degrees the University can offer.”

Read Alex Bentley’s Full Bio:

Alex Bentley is Associate Dean of CECS and Professor in Anthropology at UTK. Before being named Associate Dean of CECS, Bentley served as head of the Department of Anthropology, as well as Faculty Director for the Data Science intercollegiate minor.

In Spring 2022, Bentley created and taught the first version of DATA 201, “Data science and discovery”. As a computational social scientist, Bentley’s research concerns how human behaviors change through time and across social and geographic space. Much of this research tests quantitative models of collective behavior on real-world data in realms varying from public health, cultural values, and the spread of misinformation.

During 14 years at U.K. universities, Bentley consulted for the Gates Foundation, the U.K. Ministry of Defense and Department of Health as well as Sony Europe, Sanofi Pasteur, Unilever, and others. An Affiliate of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, Bentley helped create a DoD policy document, Future Directions in Social Science. His coauthored books for M.I.T. Press include I’ll Have What she’s Having: Mapping Social Behavior, The Acceleration of Cultural Change, and The Importance of Small Decisions.

Email Alex Bentley

Vandana Singh – Interim Program Director

Before joining CECS, Vandana Singh was a Professor in the School of Information Sciences and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the College of Communication and Information. She has served as the Director for Undergraduate Studies and the Coordinator for the undergraduate minor at the School of Information Sciences.

Read Vandana Singh’s Full Bio:

Singh’s research focuses on Open-Source Software, Gender and Information Technology, Diversity in Software Engineering, Online Learning, AI education, AI Ethics, and Technology for rural libraries. She teaches Web Design, Usability Testing and Methods, Foundations of Information Technology, and DEI for Technology Professionals. She has received funding from federal agencies such as National Science Foundation (NSF), IMLS, and the United States Geological Society (USGS) and an industry grant from Google.

Singh’s work is published in top information science journals, national and international conferences, and books. Her research publications have received several awards at different venues, including the best research paper award. She is currently an Executive member of ACM-W North America and the chair of the Student Chapter for ACM-W North America. She is also the programming committee chair for the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) academic alliance. For more information, please visit her website at-

Xiaopeng Zhao – Interim Program Director

Xiaopeng Zhao serves as a Program Director at the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies (CECS). He has extensive experience and expertise leading interdisciplinary programs, driving innovation, and establishing partnerships with industry and academic institutions.

Read Xiaopeng Zhao’s Full Bio:

Before joining CECS, Zhao held the position of professor of biomedical engineering at UT. Since joining the university in 2007, he has made significant contributions to research in machine learning, robotics, healthcare, and dynamics and control. His groundbreaking research and innovative algorithms have been recognized with numerous awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER award. Notably, Zhao’s work in physiological signal analysis and enhancement has garnered widespread attention for its impact on healthcare and diagnosis.

Zhao has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles and delivered presentations at conferences worldwide. He actively engages in collaborative research projects, including serving as project director for the One UT Collaboration and Innovation Grant on Detection, Care, and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. His expertise has attracted funding from renowned organizations such as the NIH, NSF, Veterans Affairs, and various foundations.

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Employment Opportunities

Interested in joining our team? Please check back regularly as we update available positions: